Saturday, August 10, 2019

Sturdy Wisdoms: Qualifiers And Caveats

     Remember what I wrote yesterday about returning this morning with something coherent?

     I lied.

     “Don’t draw to an inside straight,” they say. “Don’t open the bidding with less than 13 points,” they say. “Don’t hoard the Js and Ks hoping for a double-letter or double-word strike,” they say. And it’s good advice...most of the time. But there’s value in being unpredictable, too, or bluffs and fakes wouldn’t be so effective. Draw to an insight straight every once in a while. Open the bidding with a three-point hand every once in a while. It keeps ‘em on their toes.

     Any Dungeons & Dragons veteran will tell you: Chaotic Amorals have more fun!

     Debt is best avoided...most of the time. Debt is an anvil chained to your ankle. It saps your income and limits your choices. It pins you down: to your locale, to your job, to that layabout lounging on the sofa...well, perhaps I should say no more about that. But every now and then, it makes sense to incur a debt despite all those things.

     A buddy of mine recently incurred a debt for a reason new to me. He borrowed to finance his divorce. Inasmuch as his wife had become verbally vicious and occasionally materially destructive toward him, I had to deem it a wise decision. In effect, he exchanged one debt for another, with preference going to the one he knew he would someday discharge.

     What’s that you say? Borrow to afford a Corvette? Get serious. Yeah, I did it, but remember your mother’s favorite question: if all your friends were to jump off a bridge, would you do it too?

     “It is better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Words to live by, Gentle Reader...unless what you have to say is disruptive enough to create a dynamic you can exploit. Consider this example:

     Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden forcefully grabbed a young woman's arm on Thursday after she pressed him about how many genders exist and Biden seemed unable to provide an adequate response.

     The incident happened while Biden was campaigning at the "Political Soapbox" at the Iowa State Fair when a girl named Katie, who is a student in the state, approached Biden with questions.

     "How many genders are there?" Katie asked.

     "There are at least three," Biden responded.

     "What are they?" Katie asked.

     Biden becoming visibly angry, responded: "Don't play games with me, kid."

     Sometimes one sharp question, properly timed, will let all the air out of some bloviating gasbag...and who deserves it more than Handsy Joseph “They’re gonna put y’all back in chains” Biden?

     Some years ago I became embroiled in a legal dispute on behalf of my employer. I was asked to assist in finding a lawyer suited to the case. One lawyer I interviewed struck me as too full of himself – yes, lawyers have a tendency in that direction, but there are limits – so I asked him to comment on a piece of legal writing, a motion. Lawyers do a lot of writing...or they claim to do it while leaving it to their paralegals. The consequences can sometimes be funny – and useful.

     The document was short. I’d edited it to omit the names of the lawyer involved and the case in controversy. I gave him a few minutes to familiarize himself with it and then asked what he thought of it. “Their position isn’t well stated. I would have put it completely differently,” he said at once.

     I then handed him the original. It had his name proudly emblazoned across the top. “Really?” I said. “How?”

     Why yes, I am a sneaky bastard. However did you guess?

     I recently had an interesting exchange with long-time reader and friend Pascal. The subject was the distinction between cynicism and skepticism. Many Americans have become completely cynical about the political process and its fruits. (Make of that characterization what you will.) “They’re all thieves” has become almost as common a dismissal as is “I’ll get back to you on that” during a staff meeting. But armor-plated cynicism is seldom as useful, tactically, as skepticism.

     The skeptic isn’t absolutely unpersuasible; he merely insists upon being convinced. You must do more than trumpet your own thinking to sway him. In particular, you must face his questions and answer them satisfactorily. In the process, he’ll discover much about you, including this supremely important item: whether you’re willing to allow that you might be wrong.

     Thomas Sowell, one of the finest minds of our time, has suggested that three questions ought to be put to anyone who proposes a “solution” to some “problem:”

  1. “How do you know?”
  2. “Where’s your evidence?”
  3. “How much will it cost?”

     These are sharp questions that very few nostrum-peddlers and panjandra can answer. They tend to waffle, fudge, emit windy generalities, and (of course) change the subject. But there’s a fourth question I like rather a lot that really puts the screws to them:

“Let’s say I go along with you on this. If it doesn’t work out the way you claim it will, will you restore our rights and refund our money?”

     I think that would make the overwhelming majority of them turn purple and explode, don’t you? Especially when the subject is “gun control.”

     I know, I know: two “assorted” columns back to back is a bit much for the Resident Sage of Liberty’s Torch. Chalk it up to having many other things clogging my thoughts, including a host of as-yet-unresolved water-related problems. But as the proctologist said to his constipated patient, this too shall pass. In the meantime, have a nice day.


AuricTech Shipyards said...

To give credit where credit is due, Gropey Joe did give a reasonable answer to the original question. There are three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. To quote myself:

"Nouns have gender; people have sex. Nouns that have gender are declined; people who are declined don't have sex."

Linda Fox said...

Fair Warning: I'm stealing that addendum to Sowell's 3 questions.

Francis W. Porretto said...

(chuckle) Feel free to use it and use it widely!

AuricTech Shipyards said...

Oh, and regarding the title of this post, had Admiral Cradock possessed Sturdee's wisdom, he might have survived World War I.